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Food Advertising Analysis in Ebony and People: Advertising Appeals and Ethnic Targeting


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I am serious about my work. I collaborated on a content analysis, with Towson’s Mass Communication’s Interim Department Chair, that was presented at the 101st annual Eastern Communication Association …

I am serious about my work. I collaborated on a content analysis, with Towson’s Mass Communication’s Interim Department Chair, that was presented at the 101st annual Eastern Communication Association conference in Baltimore this past April. This analysis was recently submitted to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the 2010 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media.

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  • 1. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 Food Advertising Analysis in Ebony and People: Advertising Appeals and Ethnic Targeting Introduction The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared obesity to be a public health epidemic, equivalent to smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. (CDC, 2009a). In 2000, 16.6 percent (400,000) of deaths were attributed to poor diet and physical inactivity (Mokdad et al., 2004; Rabin 2009). Estimates place the direct and indirect costs of overweight and obesity in the U.S. at 117 billion dollars per year (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders, 2005). In the last 30 years, obesity has increased disproportionately among minorities, with African Americans accounting for 60 percent of the total overweight population in the United States (Tirodkar & Jain, 2003). After analyzing data from 2006 to 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that African Americans had 51 percent higher obesity prevalence compared to whites (CDC, 2009b). The prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic black boys aged 12-19 increased from 10.7 percent in 1994 to 18.5 percent in 2006. The rate of obesity among non-Hispanic black girls of the same age group increased from 13.2 percent to 27.7 percent over the same time period. It was reported in 2007 that 30.9 percent of African Americans did not participate in any physical activities, compared to 20.4 percent among Whites. In addition, 19.8 percent of African Americans were considered inactive, defined as participating in ten minutes or less of moderate and vigorous physical activities a day, compared to 10.9 percent of Whites who were reported to be in the same category. There have been significant efforts to promote healthy eating and exercise among the population in general and among children, in particular. On the consumer education front, the Ad 1
  • 2. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 Council launched a National Obesity Prevention Campaign in 2004. The campaign targeted adults of all races and encouraged them to take small steps to direct their lives in a more healthy direction (Ad Council, 2009). In 2005, the Ad Council expanded their target to children of all ethnicities and conveyed a similar message. The overall goal of the campaign was to educate overweight Americans to adopt a healthier lifestyle by eating healthy, controlling portion sizes at meals, and incorporating light physical activity into their daily lives (Ad Council, 2009). On a policy level, an overall restriction of food advertising has been addressed together with other price-based policies on food marketing (Mooreman and Price 1989; Seiders and Petty 2004, 2007). Several economic analyses contend that restrictions on fast-food advertising to children will substantially reduce the childhood obesity rate (e.g., York, 2008). However, similar efforts are lacking when it comes to promoting healthy eating among African Americans as a special segment that is at the highest risk of obesity-related health issues. Similarly, there has been no particular discussion of policies concerning potential disparities between food advertising targeting the general population and those targeting African Americans or other minority groups. The CDC has determined that African Americans, along with other minorities, need policy support to promote healthy eating and physical activity (CDC, 2009a). The purpose of this study is to explore whether there are any systematic differences in the ways foods are advertised to African American consumers compared to the ways they are advertised to the general population. Specifically, the study will examine whether food advertising in magazines geared toward African American consumers differs from food advertising found in magazines targeted toward a general audience. Similar research has been conducted in the past and found significant differences in both the types of foods advertised and the kinds of appeals used in the advertisements (Henderson and Kelly 2005; Kean and Prividera 2
  • 3. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 2007, Mastin and Campo 2006, Pratt and Pratt 1996). Considering the significant increase in the media in recent years about the disparity of obesity among African Americans, the current study attempts to provide insights as to whether there have been any changes in the way food products are advertised to African Americans compared to the general population. Literature Review Social Learning Theory, Targeted Marketing, and Food Advertising The basic premises of social learning theory include a notion that “appropriate” human behavior is learned through such mechanisms as observation, role models, and responses from others, and that individuals are more likely to model the behaviors of people with whom they identify or feel similar to (Bandura 1977; Miller and Dollard 1941). Part of social learning occurs through observations of the world depicted in mass media (Bandura 1997.) Television and print advertisements are reported to have strong impacts on people’s nutritional choices (Henderson and Kelly 2005; Pratt and Pratt 1996). Food advertising messages are likely to help consumers learn the proper context of food consumption within a culture. Through repetition, these advertising messages reinforce and reward modeled behavior of food consumption. According to advertising industry data, manufacturers of food products spend a significant portion of their advertising budget on magazine advertisements, which allows a high level of repetition of modeled behavior in food advertising. Out of all measured media advertising expenditure, the portion spent on magazine advertising ranged from 20% for the “sweets and snacks” industry to over 40% for the “prepared foods” industry (TNS Media Intelligence, 2008). Targeted marketing, through a process of segmentation, targeting and positioning, forms a basis of effective marketing (Kotler 1997). In targeted marketing principle, different 3
  • 4. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 consumers may be exposed to different advertising messages for different food products. Targeted marketing of food and beverage products to African American consumers has existed since the 1930s (Gibson 1978). African American consumers are reported to shop for food more often and, on average, spend more money on food per shopping occasion compared with the population in general (Gallop-Goodman 2001). Results from several experimental studies suggest that African American consumers respond more favorably to targeted advertising, often depicting African American models or spokespersons, than their white counterparts do (Grier and Brumbaugh 1999; Grier and Deshpande 2001). The findings appear to be consistent with the premise made in social learning theory above (Bandura 1997). Content Analysis of African American Magazines A study that analyzed both editorial content and food advertisements in Ebony, Essence, and Jet over a 20-year period between 1984 and 2003 concluded that sweetened beverages, fast foods, and foods with no nutritional value were the most frequently advertised products in these magazines (Mastin and Campo, 2006). Foods that were advertised least often included vegetables and fruits. It was during this period that obesity in America reached an epidemic level. Even though these magazines did not advertise nutritional food groups often, each magazine continued to suggest that eating from them is a way to lose weight. For example, approximately 83.3 percent of Ebony’s overweight and obesity-related articles mentioned eating more vegetables as a strategy and 66.7 percent of the magazine’s coverage named eating more fruits as a strategy, Similarly, 40 percent of such articles in Essence, 33.3 percent of such articles in Ebony, and 20 percent of such articles in Jet suggested limiting sugar or sweets as a strategy to overcome obesity (Mastin and Campo, 2006). 4
  • 5. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 A meta-analysis of studies published from June 1992 through 2006 showed a comparison of food and beverage marketing to African Americans versus Caucasians (Grier and Kumanyika 2008). The review included results from a content analysis of all health-related advertising in 12 women’s magazines published in June, July, and August, 2002. The twelve magazines consisted of four lifestyle magazines popular among African Americans, Hispanics, and the mainstream (predominately whites), respectively (Duerksen et al. 2005). The study concluded that African American magazines were more likely than mainstream magazines to advertise alcohol and fast food. The study also found that half of the advertisements for unhealthy products in African American magazines used African American models, whereas only six percent of such advertisements in mainstream magazines used white models. In contrast, 58 percent of health- promoting advertisements in the mainstream magazines used white models (ibid.). McLaughlin and Goulet (1999) analyzed advertisements in People, Cosmopolitan, Ebony, and Essence, and concluded that advertising appeals in magazines targeting the general population differed from those targeting the African American population. Despite the limited scope of research that investigated only one month’s worth of publications, their findings indicate that advertisers ran similar advertisements in all the magazines, but changed the ethnic appeals to suit the audience of the magazine (McLaughlin and Goulet, 1999). In a study that compared food advertisements in Ebony, Essence and Ladies’ Home Journal from 1980 to 1982 and from 1990 to 1992, authors found that the number of advertisements for alcoholic beverages increased in Ebony and Essence while it decreased in Ladies’ Home Journal during this time (Pratt and Pratt 1996). Ebony and Essence carried almost no advertisements for vegetables, fruit, milk, and dairy products while 12 percent of food advertisements Ladies’ Home Journal belonged to these categories. 5
  • 6. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 Ethnic Targeting, Food Category, and Advertising Appeal Ethnic targeting of African American consumers is especially widespread in alcohol advertising. According to Alaniz and Wilkes (1998), marketers of alcoholic beverages commonly practice ethnic targeting and portray ethnic heroes, holidays, and cultural facts in their advertisements to appeal to minorities. A content analysis of alcohol advertising in magazines between 1979 and 1992 reports that alcohol advertising is more prevalent in minority magazines (Cui 2000). Convenience and prepared meals have also become increasingly popular. Once seen as a type of food that was only used for last minute emergencies, frozen foods and entrees have evolved into a 30.3 billion dollar business (Reyes, 2002). In addition to the food categories, past research also has investigated the types of advertising appeals used in food advertisements within the context of ethnic targeting. Several studies have reported that there has been an overall increase in the use of nutritional appeals in magazine food advertisements (Hickerman and Gates 2003). For example, a content analysis of food advertisements in three women’s magazines reported that 41% of the advertisements contained at least one health or nutrition claim (Parker 2003). Other popular appeals in food advertising include taste/flavor and emotional appeals (Warren et al., 2008). However, there has also been a concern that there is disparity in the use of health/nutrition appeals in food advertising between the ads targeting African American consumers and those targeting the general population. A study by Pratt et al. (1996) reported that weight control claims in food advertising were far more frequently found in Ladies Home Journal, a magazine with a predominantly white audience than they were in Essence, a magazine targeting African American female audience. 6
  • 7. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 From the literature review, it is evident that the high obesity rate in the United States, especially among the African American population, is a serious health issue. The literature review also suggests that, based on social learning theory, magazine advertising is an important way for consumers to learn the context within which foods are consumed in American society, and that disparities exist in the ways foods are advertised in magazines due to ethnic targeting. Within the current climate of heightened attention to obesity issues in the African American population, the proposed study is an attempt to replicate previous research on the topic by analyzing food advertisements in current issues of consumer magazines. Of particular interest are the types of food categories and the types of advertising appeals used in food advertisements that appeared in 2008 issues of Ebony and People. It is hoped that the results will be useful to gain insights on any meaningful changes in food advertising in recent years. The following research questions are explored: RQ1: Is there a significant difference in the types of food categories advertised in Ebony vs. those advertised in People magazine in 2008? RQ2: Is there a significant difference in the types of advertising appeals used in food advertisement in Ebony vs. those used in food advertisement in People magazine in 2008? RQ3: Is there a significant difference in the advertising appeals used for a particular food category in Ebony vs. those used for the same food category in People magazine in 2008 (category x appeal)? Method Sampling Frame Content analysis was conducted to examine the food advertisements appearing in Ebony and People from January to December 2008. Ebony is published monthly, and all 12 issues in 7
  • 8. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 2008 were analyzed. People a weekly publication, thus the first issue of every month was selected as a matching sample to Ebony, resulting in 12 issues from the year. Ebony magazine was chosen because it is the lifestyle magazine with the highest readership among African American readers. According to Mediamark Reporter Inc.’s fall 2008 data on magazine readership, over 10 million (40.1%) of all African American adults read Ebony in any given month. Nine out of ten readers of Ebony are African American (MRI+ Fall 2008). People magazine was chosen as a mainstream lifestyle magazine whose readership reflects the general population distribution in the U.S. About 33 million of 43 million People readers, or 76.3%, are white, as compared to the proportion of whites in the U.S. adult population, 76.1% (index 99). Similarly, 5 million readers, or 11.6%, of People readers were African American, as compared to the proportion of African Americans in the U.S. adult population, 11.5% (index 101) (MRI+ Fall 2008). Readers of Ebony are skewed towards female (index 121), and so are the readers of People (index 130). In addition, Ebony magazine was chosen because previous studies have conducted content analysis of food advertisements in the magazine, the most recent being from the 2004 issues of Ebony (Kean and Prividera 2007). The current study attempts to see if there have been any meaningful changes in the kinds of food advertised and the types of appeals used in these food advertisements during the last decade in light of the increasing awareness of obesity as a public health issue, especially obesity in the African American population. Coder Training, Coding Scheme and Inter-Coder Reliability A preliminary coding sheet was created which contained 15 variables, including ad size, food category, brand, company, headline, and advertising appeals, among others. The coding sheet also included summary information about the number of ad pages out of all magazine 8
  • 9. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 pages, and other product advertisements appearing in the magazine. Nineteen food advertisements found in current issues of general consumer magazines were analyzed using the sample coding sheet. All food advertisements which were at least of half-page size, including those of alcoholic beverages, were coded. The preliminary coding sheet was used to train the coders and to build a detailed coding scheme. Three student coders participated in the coding of the advertisements. First, the coders received instructions on the definitions of each of the 15 variables. Second, 36 ads from four issues of Ebony and 32 ads from two issues of People were selected, and each ad was assigned to two coders who independently completed the coding. Afterwards, all three coders met and discussed their coding results. An important component of the discussion was to generate a coding scheme for the two key variables for this study, food categories and advertising appeals. The coders agreed on a coding scheme of 13 categories for the variable of food category, ranging from nonalcoholic beverages to dairy products. The coders also generated 12 categories for the variable of advertising appeals (see Table 1). Advertising appeals were identified from the headline, subheads, or main visual in each advertisement. When an ad communicated more than one distinctive appeal, only the primary and secondary appeals were coded. The coders then recoded the food categories and advertising appeals using the coding scheme they developed. During this process, the coders compared and discussed differences in one another’s coding results for inter-coder reliability. An overall inter-coder agreement on the coding of food categories reached nearly 100% after a short discussion. The coding of advertising appeals was more problematic and required additional discussion and training. In the end, the agreement over advertising appeals reached slightly over 90% between each pair of coders, or .90 based on 9
  • 10. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 Holsti’s (1969) method of inter-coder reliability. Each coder then completed the coding of advertisements in all 12 issues of Ebony and 12 issues of People, respectively. Table 1: Coding Scheme Food Category Ad Appeal 10
  • 11. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 1. Nonalcoholic Beverages 1. Taste/Flavor 2. Alcoholic Beverages 2. Nutrition-General Claim 3. Nutrition-Specific Claim 3. Snacks 4. Emotion-Personal 5. Emotion-Social 4. Fast Food 6.Convenience 5. Soup 7. Value 6. Sweets 8. New 7. Condiments 9. Ethnic Appeals-Spokesperson 8. Fruit/Veggies 10. Ethnic Appeals-Ethnic Culture 9. Convenience Entrees/Meals 11.Spokesperson-General 10. Breakfast 12. Other Appeal 11. Pasta/Bread 12. Meat 13. Dairy 11
  • 12. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 Results Overview A total of 276 advertisements were coded from 24 issues across the two magazines in 2008: 103 from 12 issues of Ebony magazine and 173 from 12 issues of People magazine. The number of advertisements in each issue varied from as few as 4 in the January issue of Ebony to 19 in the January issue of People. Across all 24 issues, the most frequently advertised food categories were snacks (51 ads, 18.5% of all food ads) and beverages (43 ads, 15.9%). The next most frequently advertised food items were alcoholic beverages, soups, sweets, condiments, and convenience entrees. Each food item was advertised 23 to 29 times, accounting for 8.3% to 10.5% of all food advertisements found in two magazines. Fast food, breakfast food, and dairy products were advertised infrequently, ranging from 11 to 14 ads, accounting for 4.0% to 5.1% of all food advertisements (see Table 2). Table 2: Food Category Ebony People Total Code Food Category Freq % Freq % Freq % # 1 Beverage 14 13.6% 28 16.2% 42 15.2% 2 Alcohol 20 19.4% 4 2.3% 24 8.7% 3 Snack 9 8.7% 42 24.3% 51 18.5% 4 Fast Food 8 7.8% 5 2.9% 13 4.7% 5 Soup 12 11.7% 14 8.1% 26 9.4% 6 Sweets 13 12.6% 16 9.2% 29 10.5% 7 Condiment 13 12.6% 10 5.8% 23 8.3% 12
  • 13. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 8 Fruit/Veggies 0 0.0% 1 0.6% 1 0.4% 9 Convenience Entrees/Meals 4 3.9% 23 13.3% 27 9.8% 10 Breakfast 6 5.8% 8 4.6% 14 5.1% 11 Pasta/Bread 0 0.0% 6 3.5% 6 2.2% 12 Meat 4 3.9% 5 2.9% 9 3.3% 13 Dairy 0 0.0% 11 6.4% 11 4.0% Total 103 100.0% 173 100.0% 276 100% A total of 476 advertising appeals were coded from the 276 advertisements. Both the primary appeal and the secondary appeal were coded from a single ad when such distinction was clear. The results indicated that taste/flavor appeals were the most frequently used (184 times, 38.7% of appeals coded) in the magazine food advertisements in this study, followed by emotional appeals (121 times, 25.4%) and nutrition appeals (77 times, 16.2.0%). Both convenience (33 times, 6.9%) and ethnic appeals (32 times, 6.7%) were also somewhat frequently used (see Table 3). Table 3: Advertising Appeal Ebony People Both Code Ad Appeal Fre % Fre % Fre % # q q q 1 Taste/Flavor 47 31.3% 137 42.0% 184 38.7% 2 Nutrition - General 0 0% 32 9.8% 32 6.7% 3 Nutrition - Specific 24 16.0% 21 6.4% 45 9.5% 4 Emotion - Personal 18 0% 68 20.9% 86 18.1% 5 Emotion - Social 16 22.7% 19 5.8% 35 7.4% 6 Convenience 3 2.0% 30 9.2% 33 6.9% 7 Value 2 1.3% 2 0.6% 4 0.8% 8 New 7 4.7% 9 2.8% 16 3.4% 13
  • 14. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 9 Ethnic Appeal - Ethnicity of Spokesperson 12 0% 0 0.0% 12 2.5% 10 Ethnic Appeal - Reference to Ethnic Culture 18 20.0% 2 0.6% 20 4.2% 11 Spokesperson 3 2.0% 4 1.2% 7 1.5% 12 Other Appeal 0 0% 2 0.6% 2 0.4% Total 150 100.0% 326 100.0% 476 100.0% Research Questions The first research question examines whether there are any differences in the food categories advertised between Ebony and People magazines (food category x magazine). In Ebony, the most frequently advertised food category was alcoholic beverages (20 ads, 19.4% of all food ads). Nonalcoholic beverages (14 ads, 13.6%), sweets (13 ads, 12.6%), condiments (13 ads, 12.6%), and soup (12 ads, 11.7%) were also found somewhat frequently. In contrast, the most common food products advertised in People were snacks (42 ads, 24.3%), followed by nonalcoholic beverages (28 ads, 16.2%) and convenience entrees (23 ads, 13.3%). The results indicate that while nonalcoholic beverages were advertised frequently in both magazines, alcoholic beverages were advertised almost exclusively in Ebony. On the other hand, snacks and convenience entrées were advertised far more frequently in People than were they in Ebony (see Table 2). The second research question addresses whether there are any differences in the types of appeals used in food advertisements between the two magazines (ad appeal x magazine). In Ebony, taste appeals were most frequently found (47 times, 31.3% of all appeals coded), followed by emotional appeals (34 times, 22.7%), ethnic appeals (30 times, 20.0%), and nutrition appeals (24 times, 16.0%). In People, taste was again a dominant appeal (137 times, 42.0%). Emotional appeals (87 times, 26.7%) and nutrition appeals (53 times, 16.3%) were also common. 14
  • 15. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 The convenience appeals (30 times, 9.2%) were also frequently used in People, reflecting a relatively high frequency of convenience entrees advertised in the magazine as discussed in the above analysis for RQ1. The results suggest both similarities and differences in the types of appeals frequently found in two magazines. Overall, the two magazines were similar in that taste, emotion, and nutrition, in order of prevalence, were popular appeals used their food advertisements. In a close examination, however, there are several notable differences between the two magazines for each of these three popular appeals. First, taste appeals were more frequently found in People (42.0%) than were they in Ebony (31.5%). Second, the emotional appeals were used differently in the two magazines. When the emotional appeals were separated between personal emotions (e.g., personal happiness, pride, indulgence, feeling better, intimate relationship, family love) and social emotions (e.g., cool, successful, or popular in the crowd), personal emotions and social emotions were somewhat equally found in Ebony magazine, 12.0% and 10.7%, respectively, of all appeals. On the other hand, personal emotions were far more frequently found (20.9%) than were social emotions (5.8%) in People. Third, the nutrition appeals were based on different claims in two magazines. All nutritional appeals were further separated between those based on general health claims (e.g., nutritious, better, good for your body, etc.) and those based on specific health benefits (e.g., less fat, lower cholesterol, less sodium, more calcium, etc.). In Ebony, all nutritional appeals were based on specific health claims (16.0%) whereas in People, general health claims were found more frequently (9.8%) than were the specific health benefit claims (6.4%). In addition, there were advertising appeals uniquely found in each magazine. The ethnic appeals were found almost exclusively in Ebony (20% of all appeals coded). Less than one 15
  • 16. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 percent of advertising appeals from People magazine were coded as ethnic appeals. On the other hand, the convenience appeals were far more frequently found in People (9.2%) than were they in Ebony (2.0%). The third research question explores whether there are differences in the types of advertising appeals for food products that appear in both magazines (food category x ad appeal x magazine). It was shown (RQ2) that ethnic appeals were frequently found in Ebony. Further analysis indicates that ethnic appeals are almost exclusively used in the advertisements for alcoholic- and non-alcoholic beverages, but are rarely found in the advertisements for other food products in Ebony (See Table 4). Over half of the appeals in the non-alcoholic beverage advertisements were coded as ethnic appeals (52.2%). More than one quarter of appeals used in the alcoholic beverage advertisements were coded as such (27.8%). However, ethnic appeals were hardly found in the rest of food advertisements. Instead, taste, emotion, and nutritional appeals were commonly found. Table 4: Food Categories and Advertising Appeal Ebony People Nonalcoholic Beverages Freq % Freq % Ethnic Appeals 12 52.2% 2 3.6% Emotion 5 21.7% 19 34.5% Nutrition 4 17.4% 10 18.2% Taste/Flavor 2 8.7% 21 38.2% Alcoholic Beverages Freq % Freq % Taste/Flavor 6 16.7% 5 62.5% Emotion 16 45% 3 37.5% Ethnic Appeals (Spokesperson) 10 40% 0 - Snacks Freq % Freq % Taste/Flavor 9 64.3% 35 46.1% 16
  • 17. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 Emotion 1 - 22 28.9% Nutrition 4 28.6% 11 14.5% Soups Freq % Freq % Taste/Flavor 6 35.3% 10 35.7% Nutrition 6 35.3% 9 32.1% Convenience 1 - 3 10.7% Convenience Entrees Freq % Freq % Taste/Flavor 1 - 17 38.6% Emotion 2 - 12 27.3% Convenience 0 - 11 25.0% Nutrition 1 - 4 9.1% Note: Only categories that have substantial number of appeals are shown. Not all appeals are shown for each food category Taste appeals were most common in the ads for snacks, soups, sweets, and condiments. Emotional appeals were frequently found in the ads for alcoholic beverages and sweets. Nutritional appeals were most distinctly used in the ads for breakfast and soups. Among the food advertisements in People, taste appeals were most frequently found regardless of food categories, accounting for at 35%-46% of all appeals in each food category. Emotional appeals, which were the second most common appeals in People, were especially popular in the ads for beverages, snacks, sweets, convenience entrees and breakfasts accounting for 27%-47% of all appeals used within each food category. Nutritional appeals, the third most common appeals in People, were used most frequently in the ads for soups. When taken together, the overall results for RQ3 indicate that in People magazine, popular advertising appeals were similar across most of the food products, in the order of taste, emotion, and nutrition. In Ebony magazine, popular appeals changed depending on the types of products being advertised. Taste appeals were most frequently found in several products (snacks, 17
  • 18. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 sweet, condiments, and soups). But emotional appeals were most common in alcoholic beverages and ethnic appeals were most common in the ads for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. In both magazines, nutritional appeals were most commonly found in the advertisements for soup. Discussions and Future Research Overall, the findings suggest that ethnic targeting in food advertising continued in 2008 to some extent, but also has shown some changes from the previous years. Continuing the past trends, alcohol advertising appeared predominantly in Ebony, advertising for sweets was still more common in Ebony than in People, and advertising for healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, and dairy) was almost nonexistent in Ebony. However, there appears to be a noticeable decrease in the advertising for nonalcoholic beverages, snacks, and convenience entrees in Ebony, in comparison to their counterparts appeared in People. While past research reported a significantly higher occurrence of advertising for these products in Ebony, the current study shows either no difference (in nonalcoholic beverage) or a reversal of the results (in snacks and convenience entrees) between the two magazines. It is too early to tell whether the changes reflect a true turning point in ethnic targeting of unhealthy foods, and future research is called for. Another finding that is similar to past research is that taste, emotional appeals, and nutrition were three most commonly used appeals in the food advertisements in both Ebony and People. The results also confirmed that ethnic appeals were almost exclusively found in Ebony, although readers of People include both white and black, proportionate to population distribution in the U.S. Beyond these similarities, several interesting results were found that have not been addressed in previous research. First, the use of emotional appeals in the food advertisements in each magazine showed a contrast. Far more frequent use of personal emotions was observed in 18
  • 19. Lee, Bean, Galliford and Underwood 2009 the advertisements from People while a more balanced use between personal emotions and social emotions was found in the advertisements from Ebony. Psychologists and psychiatrists have been investigating possible ways to prevent obesity by treating eating as a psychological problem behavior when it is used to satisfy individuals’ emotional needs (emotional eating) (Steinhardt, Bezner and Adams, 1999; Van Striden et al., 1986). The use of emotional appeals in food advertising in general and the similarities and differences within the context of ethnic targeting in particular need to be further investigated in future research. It is also interesting to note that nutrition appeals in People tend to be based on general health claims whereas similar appeals in Ebony are based on specific health benefits (low cholesterol, low sodium, less fat). Again, it is not clear why the difference is shown or whether it is a sustained difference. The issue needs further investigation. Other interesting findings and questions for future research include a prevalent use of ethnic appeals only in the advertisements for alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, but not in the advertisements for other products in Ebony. As a content analysis, the current study does not establish any causal relationships between high rates of obesity among African American and ethnic targeting in food advertising. Rather, the study is based on an assumption that advertising is a form of persuasive message that has been shown to influence people’s choice of product, including the food products, and that targeted marketing is an effective form of marketing that influences the preference and purchase of products among the target consumers. Also, the findings are limited to the analysis of 24 issues of magazines in 2008. Despite these conceptual and methodological limitations, findings from the current study appear to present several interesting topics for future research in food advertising and ethnic targeting. 19
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